Top official warns colleges on fee rises as students' burden grows

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:00am

A senior education official has warned colleges and universities against raising tuition fees as students face a growing financial burden, particularly in rural areas.

Zhang Baoqing, vice-minister of education, said tuition fees should be used only to supplement, not finance, education.

'The reform of China's higher education is a must, but the development of higher education [system] should not rely upon charges levied on students,' Xinhua quoted Mr Zhang as saying at a recent seminar in Xian attended by university representatives.

The comments followed Mr Zhang's statement in August that about 2.4 million students - 20 per cent of the total enrolment in Chinese colleges and universities - were facing financial difficulties. He said the government had invested 70 billion yuan in higher education last year, while students had paid more than 40 billion yuan in tuition fees.

Mr Zhang said China's higher education system had made rapid progress during the past five years, with the number of on-campus students increasing from 6 million to more than 20 million.

With the increase in tuition fees in recent years, some families, particularly those in rural areas, were finding higher education unaffordable for their children, the vice-minister said.

'Common people are very unhappy about that,' he said. 'Higher education now is rather expensive. For example, a student needs nearly 10,000 yuan a year to study in a college or university in Beijing - 4,000 yuan for tuition, at least 3,600 yuan for living costs as well as transport fees and books.

'We cannot raise tuition any more as sons and daughters of farmers and laid-off workers make up a big proportion of college and university students,' Mr Zhang said.

'We cannot make China's higher education accessible only to those with money. That is not the education system for a communist country.'

In order to complete their education, some students from poor families had to seek help from the student loan programme, which was started in 1999.

But since the end of last year, applicants have been finding it tougher to get bank approval as a lot of students failed to repay their loans after graduation.